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Marketing Strategy
min read
May 13, 2024

A Content Marketer's Guide to Great Subject Matter Expert Questions

Keelyn Hart
Content Writer at Letterdrop


  • Interviewing subject matter experts (SMEs) can provide unique, authoritative content that Google prioritizes
  • Many companies don't do more SME interviews due to discomfort or siloed teams
  • Preparation for a SME interview involves reaching out, preparing questions, and recording/editing
  • Questions to ask SMEs include industry background, strong POV questions, problem-focused questions, and real-life examples
  • If SMEs don't have time for a full interview, request a short video response using tools like Loom or Letterdrop

If you want to rank in today's oversaturated search climate, you need to bringing something valuable and standout to the table.

Interviewing subject matter experts (SMEs) is an excellent source of that unique, authoritative information that Google prioritizes today. You need to ask the right people the right questions, turn their insights into content, and share that content across your channels.

Why Interview SMEs in 2024?

The SERPs are oversaturated with noise. Google is shifting to a more people-first approach, with it's information gain patent and search generative experience (SGE) prioritizing unique, first-party data.

You need to go that extra mile and source information from real experts if you want your SEO content to drive real revenue for you.

Interviewing and recording sessions with SMEs:

  • gives you that credible information and social proof from a real expert, ramping up the quality of what you're putting out there and improving your topical authority
  • gives you video assets to distribute across your social accounts and blog
  • gives you access to the audience of that SME, and if that SME is a potential buyer of your product, their network are likely potential buyers, too

Why Companies Don't Do More SME Interviews

A lot of marketers don't feel comfortable reaching out to potential experts.

It's also a reality that a lot of marketing teams are siloed from other teams.

But in-house marketing teams in particular have access to SMEs that they can start with — product marketers, recorded sales calls, executives — and should really try to get comfortable tapping into that resource. People are very willing to share their expertise.

From there, you can branch out to third-party experts when you're comfortable.

How Do I Prepare for a SME Interview?

Preparing for an SME interview is similar to preparing for a podcast interview (we have a playbook for setting up a B2B marketing podcast where you can go and pick up additional tips.)

1. Reaching out to SMEs

  1. Figure out who you want to talk to about a particular topic and write a personalized message referencing something that they have shared recently
  2. Tell them about your audience, why you reached out to them, and how conducting an interview would benefit you both (for example, more exposure and backlinks for them)
  3. Send the message via email or via a social channel that you have a vested interest in. They might be more receptive to you if they can see who you are and that you're sharing related information
  4. Put them in an outbound sequence. Send another email after a few days, and a final "break-up" email suggesting that you could reconnect in the future when they are available

Here's an example of outreach to an expert done via LinkedIn.

Outreach to an expert done via LinkedIn
Outreach to an expert done via LinkedIn

We set up a lot of our interviews using Calendly. It's very easy to use for both you and your potential guest.

2. Preparing Your Questions

Make sure you:

  1. Do your research on the SME of your choice to make sure you know what to ask and that the information they can provide aligns with your company narrative
  2. Have a good product marketing foundation and understand your ICP, problems, status quo, and solutions to ground your questions. You're collecting marketing material that you can use later

Write out the questions you want to ask and send it to the person in advance if they have agreed to do a talk with you. (More on what to ask in the next section.)

Here's a basic example:

An example of pre-prepared SME interview questions
An example of pre-prepared SME interview questions

3. Preparing to Record and Edit

You should be recording your SME interviews to get the most mileage out of it for SEO and other content assets across your channels.

You can use Zoom, Google Meet, or a more robust recording software like Riverside depending on your resources. Riverside is also great for editing out filler words and for adding captions.

Using Riverside for recording and editing SME interviews
Using Riverside for recording and editing SME interviews

What Questions Should I Ask an SME?

Before you get into the questions:

  1. Take a couple of minutes to chat openly and get to know your guest
  2. Set expectations and offer any instructions — for example, if you know that the recording software you're using tends to buffer, let them know to wait a beat before answering. This helps foster open communication and a more relaxed atmosphere
  3. Remember to keep questions as open-ended as you can to give room for the SME to speak on the matter
  4. Don't forget to ask their permission to record the interview

1. Ask How and Why They Got Into the Industry

This serves as an excellent "warm-up" question that can help the SME get comfortable with you. It also gives the audience a good idea of the expert's experience.

Examples include:

  • Why did you start [business name]?
  • How did you come to be interested in X?

Here's an answer from a guest on the question, "What made you start GTM Social?"

2. Ask Them Strong "POV" Questions

Unique POVs matter when it comes to cutting through the noise, and that's what you want to gather from your SME.

Try to get them to get as specific as possible. It may help if you use hypothetical scenarios to prompt them.

Ask them questions like:

  • How do you think about X?
  • What are common problems with the way people approach X? What are the consequences?
  • Why do you think people approach X this way?
  • What would you recommend marketers do today to get the best out of X?

Here is an example answer from our question, "What is bad marketing?"

3. Ask Problem-Focused Questions

How do you sell a solution? By hammering home the painfulness of a problem.

Your audience will likely be looking for problems they can relate to and eager to hear about how this was solved.

These are usually very open-ended and get valuable answers.

For example:

  • What is the biggest challenge with implementing X?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and fix a common issue with X right now, which issue would you fix?
  • X is a common issue faced by teams. What are your thoughts on that / how would you fix that?

Here's an example answer to a question, "Sales and marketing at a lot of companies don't play well together. How do you get companies to get marketing and sales rowing in the same direction?"

4. Ask For Real-Life Examples

People can relate more easily to real-life examples of someone overcoming a problem. These answers are usually very specific and data-driven, too, which is great for social proof.

Some questions you could ask:

  • Tell me about a time where you realized something wasn't working and how you realized it
  • Give me some great examples of X that you've come across recently
  • Tell me about a time where you implemented X and saw results
  • Tell me about a specific challenge you've faced with X

Here's the answer we got from the question, "Tell me about some great examples of marketing you've seen recently."

What To Do After the Interview

There are a couple of things that you should do once your SME interview is over that will help you get more mileage out of the interview itself and foster a good relationship with the expert:

  1. Share the raw and edited footage with the SME in a follow-up message. Your guest will be grateful to get the clips and will most likely share them with their own audience, extending your reach
  2. Repurpose the video and the transcript. You can convert your transcript into a long-form content asset, such as a blog post, and distribute your clips to social media. This increases your visibility across platforms

An example of a follow-up message to SMEs
An example of a follow-up message to SMEs

What if SMEs Don't Have Time for a Full Interview?

Sometimes, your SMEs are too busy to sit on a call with you or are simply reluctant to do so.

You can instead request them to send you a short video answering a single question using Loom or Letterdrop.

With Letterdrop, you can request a SME quote directly from the editor. They'll get an email with your request, which integrates with Loom to automatically record their answer.

It also auto-adds captions, a relevant logo, and metadata for you to tweak. It then auto-publishes to YouTube and to your blog post.

Distribute Your Interview Snippets Across Your Owned and Rented Channels

Once you've got your SME interview done and dusted, make sure you're getting it out there wherever your ICP is active.

  • Use editing software to add captions and to cut up snippets to share "talking head" videos on social
  • Post these snippets (along with the full interview) to YouTube to become more visible in search

An interview repurposed into a "talking head" social post
An interview repurposed into a "talking head" social post

Letterdrop can also auto-generate a URL into a social post or a first draft of a blog post for you, pairing it with pre-uploaded AI templates.

Leverage SME Interviews for Higher Rankings and Visibility

You have SMEs available to you in your own team and across your networks. Don't be shy to ask questions and use these insights to create truly unique and high-value content assets for all your distribution channels.

We can help you pull SME quotes into your blogs with ease, and help you repurpose all your video content within minutes. Reach out to us if you're interested!

Put SME quotes and interview repurposing on autopilot

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